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DiversityNursing Blog

Android App That Helps The Deaf Have A Conversation On The Phone

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Oct 01, 2014 @ 10:57 AM

By Federico Guerrini

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I just had a Skype chat with entrepreneur Olivier Jeannel about his new product. It was a text chat, as Olivier – just like roughly 70 million people in the world (of which approximately 26 million of Americans) – suffers from profound hearing loss. If he has his way, soon this is no longer going to be a problem. Together with his associate Sidney Burks and product manager Pablo Seuc-Rocher, he’s working on the launch of RogerVoice, an Android app that has been designed from the ground up for those who cannot hear on the phone.

With RogerVoice, the deaf or hard-of-hearing person starts a call and receives on his smartphone instant live transcriptions of what the other speaker is saying, regardless if he is speaking in English or another of the many other languages recognized by the system (Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Greek and Japanese top the list).

While the idea, generally speaking, is brilliant, there are still some hurdles to overcome. Automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology is still far from flawless; also, unlike other softwares (Dragon and friends) that can be trained to recognize a single voice, improving this way the recognition rate, RogerVoice has to work with any kind of voice, so don’t imagine you can have a long, complex conversation without any trouble.

“You might use it to confirm an appointment with a doctor – Olivier says – or tell a plumber to come”. Basic stuff, but enough to significantly improve the quality of life of a deaf person, allowing he or she to rely less on other people’s intervention. It’s also up to the hearing person to make a better effort to enunciate, to help the voice recognition software’s performance. So you could in fact have a long and articulate conversation, provided that the counterpart is a relative, a friend, or someone that’s kind enough not to speak in a rush.

I asked Jeannel if – when the problem is not too severe – an hearing aid wouldn’t work as well, and the answer was quite interesting, because it pointed to the social implications of suffering from hearing loss.

“The interesting fact is – he says – that most deaf people don’t wear hearing aids, only 1 in 5 apparently bother to get equipped. This is because wearing hearing aids is often associated to a kind of social stigma. Also, of the profoundly deaf population, most manage to speak, but understanding a conversation without visual cues is difficult, if not impossible. In my case, impossible without lip-reading. More and more profoundly deaf use cochlear implants, which is a revolution: it helps a lot to understand speech, but it’s still quite difficult over a phone”.

The app is designed to be Bluetooth compatible, meaning that the RogerVoice app could connect directly to a Bluetooth-equipped hearing aid for a better listening experience and, after the launch of the Android version, the team will start working on the iOS and Windows ones.

The business model will be based on subscriptions, with one year of unlimited calls priced at $59 for those that will contribute to the Kickstarter campaign that’s currently running to support the product’s development. As for the time to market, if the $20,000 is reached on Kickstarter, founder hope to release the product by the end of the year. “Hopefully for Christmas – Jeannel says”.


Topics: deaf, hearing, hearing loss, voice, technology, medical, patients, app

Patient Caring Touch System Empowers Military Nurses

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Thu, Jan 03, 2013 @ 01:31 PM

Several years ago, Lt. General Patricia Horoho, the U.S. Army’s first female and first nurse surgeon general, saw what she perceived as a loss of nursing staff, at all levels, throughout the combined military forces. She started asking nurses, “Why are you leaving?” Though Horoho expected answers like “Because I have been on three tours in Afghanistan,” the actual answers came as a surprise: “Because I don’t have enough voice in my practice.”

This feedback was the impetus for the Patient Caring Touch System (PCTS), which was developed after much research and consulting with successful civilian counterparts, and then implemented in all branches of the armed services.

“The focus of PCTS is to provide all nurses in the system a voice in their professional practice instead of having it dictated by leadership policy and procedures,” remarked Col. Patrick Ahearne, deputy commander for health services and nursing at Fort Carson, in Colorado Springs, Colo. “Instead, they help develop those policies through the unit practice councils (UPC), a cornerstone of the PCTS.”

“In the field, we have 96 percent survival rate for our wounded warriors--our trauma care is bar none,” said Mary Shannon Baker, RN, PCTS ambassador at Madigan Army Medical Center, near Tacoma, Wash. “Nurses were coming back from deployment and had little means to implement the skills and techniques they had learned and seen to be effective in the field.”

Moving to a shared governance system was a huge leap for a hierarchical military culture.

“PCTS is a fundamental shift in the ways the Army does nursing,” she added. “PCTS really gives every member of the team an equal say at the table. As a private, you can come to the UPC and we listen just as intensely as we would to a higher ranked person. If you have an evidence-based practice you want to put in place, we can do that now. We are smarter as a whole; every member can contribute to a better outcome.”

“The UPC is really the core of PCTS,” added Ahearne. “As soon as the nurses see positive results, when they bring an idea to the leadership and it is implemented, it is almost magic. As a nurse executive, it is comforting to me to have the larger brain trust of nursing out there thinking about what we can do to improve every day.”

As an example, the first thing Fort Carson Evans Army Hospital staff brought to the UPC was the issue that pushing discharged patients--many of whom were still recovering from surgery--in wheelchairs over the tiled floor to the hospital exit was uncomfortable for the patients. Every space between tiles created a bump. Action was taken to quickly carpet a path to the exit.

In addition to the unit practice councils, other elements of the PCTS system include:

Peer feedback: Nurses at every level participate in peer feedback to improve their practice and incorporate professional development.

“Before PCTS no one ever sat me down and asked where I saw myself in the organization in five years,” remarked Baker.

Core values: At Madigan, each unit has a core values representative and every month there is a core values event.

“We talk about the fact that we don’t just have a job, we have a mission,” added Baker. “The nurses have come up with some fun ways to bring the core values into everyday conversation. For instance, they made stickers of each value and put it on every can of soda in the unit, so if you buy a can of soda you have an ethic on the front of it. It keeps nurses thinking about things that are important to us.”

Optimized performance: To achieve optimized performance, the Armed Forces are now collecting data at all levels on issues such as patient falls and infection rates as well as nurse satisfaction, work load and absenteeism. The data is shared with nurses so they can engage in improving outcomes.

“We just had a nurse do a project connecting nursing-initiated orders with evidence-based practice,” stated Ahearne. “Now every nursing-initiated order has evidence behind it. We don’t need physicians’ orders for these things because the evidence shows that it is a best practice.”

Skill building: While there were always an abundance of educational opportunities, many opportunities were missed because the old system counted on an already-stretched-thin nurse leader to disseminate the information. With PCTS, a unit level nurse takes on the responsibility to look ahead and find out which opportunities would most benefit the unit.

Another significant part of PCTS is that nurses work in care teams: a lead RN who is paired with either another RN or an LPN.

“This team approach has been such a positive thing. Two sets of eyes are always better than one and now, if you have a crisis, you don’t have to find someone else to cover your patients. And when you need lunch, you are already prepared for that at the beginning of the day,” reflected Baker.

“If you have healthy, engaged, and happy nurses, it is just a by-product that you get better patient outcomes and satisfaction rates,” she explained. “PCTS is about the nurses and the nurses are about the patients. It is a cycle. We didn’t have to make a patient outcomes program, we just had to create a program to empower nurses.”

Copyright © 2012. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Topics: PCTS, empower, voice, nursing, military

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